The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies

The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies

The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies

The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies

Excerpt

Fellow of All Souls College and Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford

MARCEL MAUSS (1872-1950), Emile Durkheim's nephew and most distinguished pupil, was a man of unusual ability and learning, and also of integrity and strong convictions. After Durkheim's death he was the leading figure in French sociology. His reputation was closely bound up with the fortunes of the Année Sociologique which he helped his uncle to found and make famous; some of the most lating and original contributions to its earlier numbers were written by him in collaboration with Durkheim and Hubert and Beuchat: Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice, (1899), De quelques formes primitives de classification: contribution àl'étude des représentations collectives (1903), Esquisse d'une théorie génrale de la magie (1904), and Essai sur les variations saisonnièresdes sociés eskimos: essai de morphologie sociale (1906).

The war of 1914-18, during which Mauss was on operational service, almost wiped out the team of brilliant younger scholars whom Durkheim had taught, inspired, and gathered around him -- his son André Durkheim, Robert Hertz, Antoine Bianconi, Georges Gelly, Maxime David, Jean Reynier. The Master did not survive them (d. 1917). Had it not been for these disasters Mauss might have given us in ampler measure the fruits of his erudition, untiring industry, and mastery of method. But he not only wrote about social solidarity and collective sentiments. He expressed them in his own life. For him the group of Durkheim and his pupils and colleagues had a kind of collective mind, the material representation of which was its product the Année. And if one belongs to others and not to oneself, which is one of the themes, perhaps the basic theme . . .

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